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Maria M. Benedict (1821-1891)

Maria Martha Benedict was born on March 15, 1821 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the youngest daughter of the Reverend David Benedict and Margaret Hubbell Gano Benedict. She was one of twelve children, eleven of whom lived to maturity. Reverend Benedict was the first pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and the town’s first historian. He wrote many books and articles, and established several churches or religious associations.

Maria Benedict was one of many middle-class Providence women during the mid-nineteenth century who engaged in philanthropy. This was an era in which women were not able to vote or hold public office, and Benedict’s significant contributions to the establishment of the Home for Aged Women in Providence represent one of the ways in which women could participate in the public sphere. Nineteenth century American women led and were involved in movements advocating for abolition, temperance, suffrage, as well as care for the poor, children, and elderly. Her father also undoubtedly had a profound impact on her decision to become involved in philanthropy, as he was a great philanthropist and reformer himself. Maria Benedict served as a president of the Home for Aged Women, an institution founded by Eliza Brown Rogers, Benedict, and several others in 1856 for the purpose of providing care and housing for elderly widows and homeless women. The Home grew rapidly and operates today as Tockwotton on the Waterfront. She remained single her entire life, dedicating her time to serving others with compassion and generosity. Read More...

Arthur Viola, Student at Rhode Island College